Candidates lining up for LaValle’s state Senate seat

With longtime New York state Sen. Ken LaValle’s announcement that he won’t seek reelection to the 1st District seat for the first time in 44 years, potential replacements from both parties are lining up to seek that position.

Mr. LaValle’s announcement means that the Republicans will need to nominate a new candidate — and that Democrats will be running against a non-incumbent for the first time in decades. 

According to Suffolk County Republican chairman Jesse Garcia, four potential candidates have already come forward or been contacted by the party. 

They are Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio; 2nd District Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo, who represents the North Fork; and Brookhaven Town council members Jane Bonner and Dan Panico. 

“I convened a conference call with the affected town leaders on Wednesday as the news about Senator LaValle was breaking, and we agreed on a process where we will do a very quick and deliberate school screening,” Mr. Garcia said, adding that more prospective candidates could come forward. 

The date of the screening has not yet been set, he said. 

Mr. Palumbo, whose Assembly seat is up for reelection in November, said he hasn’t decided if he wants to run for the Senate seat, and is discussing it with his family. 

The Democrats, meanwhile, have four possible candidates who have come forward for Mr. LaValle’s seat: Laura Ahearn, a lawyer and victims’ rights advocate from Port Jefferson; Tommy John Schiavoni, a retired teacher and Southampton Town councilman from Sag Harbor; Skyler Johnson, a 19-year-old college student from Mount Sinai; and Valerie Cartright, an attorney and Brookhaven Town council member. 

Suffolk County Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer said the candidates will run at-large in a primary on June 23.

“There will be no screening,” Mr. Schaffer said. “We’re not going to designate a candidate, since there so many good candidates. We’ll see who’s got what they’ve got and let them go out and show how strong a candidate they are. Let the people decide.”

The Democrats used a similar strategy in the 2018 Congressional race against Republican Lee Zeldin. 

And while the Democrats hold the majority in the state Senate, Mr. Schaffer said he’s concerned about the direction state Democrats are going on some issues. 

“I’ve told our candidates out here that I’m very concerned with some of the things the Democratic majority have done, not just as a political leader, but as a town supervisor. I totally disagree with everything they’ve done on the criminal justice reform and discovery issues. They’ve totally switched the equation to allow those who committed crimes to have the upper hand.” 

He said he is urging Suffolk Democrats to oppose these laws.